Fire Starters

Boldness, clarity and wisdom for fundraising professionals

Why Is Raising Money So Difficult?

I talk to A LOT of people in the social or nonprofit sector every week. Board members, Executive Directors, Development Directors, data entry staff. . . you name the position and I have probably spoken with them this week. Most bring me their concerns about reaching their fundraising goals. Some whine a bit about the actions others are or are not taking. What I hear disturbs me. I hear people expecting their community to give and give again or give more, without doing the work. What I know for sure is this: The work doesn’t have to be hard work. It has to be focused work. What if I told the answer to “why is raising money so difficult?” isn’t a big secret. The answer is: YOU. Your actions and your communication are not focused in the right way. The people achieving success focus their time and their words. Those achieving success take focused action every day and they are making a huge difference to their bottom line. When you focus on these four things I am CERTAIN you will see a significant difference in fundraising: 1. Really know your key supporters. 2. Share clear messages. 3. Hold yourself & others accountable for what you said you’d do. 4. Continually invite participation. Sound too simple? Not from my 30 years of experience supporting nonprofits and raising funds. On April 20 I shared three success stories of nonprofit organizations that found raising money isn’t so difficult. Collectively the three nonprofits raised more than $2.5 million last year. I also shared an example of one organization that is still struggling despite...

Planned Giving Programs: Just Do It!

When I’m working with nonprofit organizations so many times I hear, “we don’t have a planned giving program” OR “I don’t know how to start a planned giving program.” The very brilliant Carol Weisman recently shared a simple and effective way you can move past those (perceived) barriers and just do it! Here’s Carol story that she has kindly agreed to allow me to share you with: I went to Newport Beach, CA to teach Girl Scout professional staff how to be more effective fundraisers. As usual, I learned more than I taught when I heard Dianne Belk speak about planned giving. She and her husband founded the Dianne Belk and Lawrence Calder Legacy Fund Challenge. Dianne gave a simple, elegant, and powerful presentation. Dianne told her story about becoming a Girl Scout. She has been involved in the movement for 64 years. She went from being a poor girl in the South, to engineering school, and on to conquer corporate America. After I did the opening keynote, Dianne shared that she and her husband had the Girl Scouts in their will. She then asked all of the people who had the Girl Scouts in their estate plans to stand. At least 15% of the audience stood. She asked them to come to the stage. She then asked anyone who planned to make a gift to come forward, and each received a pin from the Juliette Gordon Low Society indicating a planned gift. The photo op was powerful. Everyone was beaming. Dianne spoke the next day on the specifics of planned giving. She then asked anyone who had thought about...

Don’t Make My Fundraising Mistakes, Make New Ones

In 1988 I was deliriously happy to have been hired to work on a U.S. Senate campaign. It was my first “real” fundraising gig and I was greener than a lily pad. But I didn’t care. I was honored to be working for and with a group of passionate men and woman who were willing to work long hours to make our state and our country a better place. We held rallies, house parties, sent out mailing after mailing, and made phone calls all to raise money and get commitments for votes supporting our candidate. (This was WELL before online giving was even possible.) I don’t remember why, but I got chosen to be the staff member who sat with our candidate to make fundraising phone calls a few mornings a week. Each afternoon I would drive around the Twin Cities to pick up checks from the “big dogs” as we affectionately called them. These were the major donors who always contributed to political campaigns. What I noticed was that our candidate did ANYTHING he could to get out of making the calls. I was young and didn’t realize how difficult it was for him. I was often frustrated and sometimes complained to others about his attitude. Does this sound like you? Complaints made about the board because they don’t do what they SHOULD be doing? Or complaints about your program staff because they don’t help you identify warm, compelling stories for you? I made the mistake of not realizing that my “candidate” was my customer too. Here’s what I wish I could go back and tell that young,...

Blow Past Your Fundraising Goals

The past few weeks have been super windy where ever I go: Minneapolis, Lincoln, NE, Dubuque, IA.   The windy weather is reminding about the case study examples and tools I’ll share with you on April 20th to help you blow past your fundraising goal this year. If raising MORE money this year matters to you; if making changes to your fundraising tactics is something you are willing to commit to; join me for a FREE webinar training on April 20th: Fundraising Tools to Raise $300 Million. And Counting. Reserve your spot now, I’ve got limited spots available. What will I cover? I’m NOT selling anything. I promise! I recorded a short video (less than 90 seconds) to tell you about the webinar and what I’ll cover on April 20th. You can also watch the video YouTube. Blow Past Your Fundraising Goals!If raising MORE money this year matters to you: 1. Reserve your spot now for this free webinar (space is limited.) 2. Put this on your calendar: 11 a.m. (Central) April 20th and learn what makes a nonprofit organization successful in their...

Are You Sharing Stories of Your Nonprofit’s Impact or Giving Reports?

Today I head to Lincoln, Nebraska where I’ll be presenting at Cause Camp. An incredibly fun two-day event where nonprofits professionals learn and interact with fundraising and marketing leaders. I’m honored to deliver a workshop on Nine Steps to a Successful Fundraising Campaign, and a breakout session on Advanced Storytelling. (My most favorite topic!) In both sessions we’ll talk about sharing stories and how important it is in fundraising campaigns and your overall success as a nonprofit. I’m passionate about nonprofit organizations sharing stories of your impact. Sharing stories about one person you’ve helped allows you to connect with your supporters on a personal and emotional level. And the double whammy is that those same stories can cause people to take immediate action. That action can be contributing time, talent, “stuff” or money. All good things, right? Because we’ve all heard, over and over again that sharing stories is important I regularly come across what I call lazy, unemotional story sharing. Well-intended people are going through the motions of inserting a few lines about a client or volunteer in their appeal or their speech and calling it a story. The truth: It’s boooorrrrring. So please; please; pay attention to what you sharing. Make sure you’re sharing actual stories and not giving reports. How to tell the difference? Stories are a narrative account of real or imagined events, according to the National Storytelling Association. You are not a reporter that has to worry about sharing objective and careful stories. You are a fundraising or communications professional charged with inspiring others to take action. The best thing to remember: Share how...

In Fundraising Too: Fake It Till You Make It

A huge “ah ha” moment about nonprofits and fundraising hit me a few days ago. But before I share it, let me give you some background. I spend nearly all of my waking hours teaching, training, and coaching nonprofit staff and board members about the best practices of fundraising and communications. All of my work is focused on helping as many organizations and people as possible — raise lots of money from individual donors. The $300 million I’ve helped organizations raise so far is nothing to sneeze at. Frankly, it even astounds me. I work to make the sessions I deliver fun and easy to dive into. Plenty of time is spent in discussion and even practicing some of the tools participants have learned. People learn stuff. They get inspired. And many go off and do amazing things with what they’ve learned. But some don’t. And here’s where my “ah ha” moment happened. As I was pondering why a recent volunteer gig I took on was an abysmal failure I realized this: The organization couldn’t see themselves as successful in their fundraising. Without the acceptance of eventual success or the “fake it till you make it” attitude that most of the people I work with have, they were never, ever going to succeed in raising more money. And then I read this: “You Need to Practice Being Your Future Self” by Peter Bregman in Harvard Business Review. Wham! I got it. “Being busy is not the same as being productive. It’s the difference between running on a treadmill and running to a destination. They are both running, but being...

No Paid Fundraising Staff? Assign a “Fundraising Leader” and Raise More Money.

Successful individual donor fundraising efforts are led by key volunteer and/or staff leadership. (Board Chair, CEO, Executive Director, President, Pastor, Rabbi) Case Study The Actors Studio for Young People (ASYP) is an exciting, high energy place. They have a mission to provide a safe, fun environment for young people (ages 6 to 18) to find their voice through the magic of theater, dance, song, poetry, writing, team work, and commitment. They’ve been growing steadily over the past five years. Their founder, Andi, is a woman on a mission. Andi is in her mid-30s, tall, always in a hurry, single, and she devotes all her time to be with the budding young artists. At The Actors Studio for Young People she does it ALL. Sort of. What Andi most loves is to ignite passion in young people. She’s the only staff at this small organization with a budget of around $200,000. In addition to being the artistic director it’s also her responsibility to raise money, manage a nine-person board, produce all of the shows, manage four contract staff and 25-30 volunteer parents, do the social media, send out the enewsletter, and more. Because she is committed to the young actors, Andi delgates parts of her job that she doesn’t really like, nor have any skills to do, to her board. The missing piece is Andi never told any of the board members she is relinquishing some of her Executive Director duties, especially the fundraising duties. Board meetings have become uncomfortable and long with finger pointing and unfinished business. Andi relies on the board to put on the annual fundraising gala....

Don’t Make This Mistake with Your Nonprofit Fundraising Event

The fundraising event you just held or are in the midst of preparing for has taken over your life. And you aren’t even sure it will meet the goal. Sound like you? Then take a quick listen as I share a common mistake for fundraising event planning. Video not displaying? You can see it here. If increasing your fundraising event revenue is important, I’ve set aside some time to talk with you. Not in a webinar, not a teleseminar, and not a pitch. I’ve got 30 minutes of focused time to strategize with you AND find out if any of my coaching programs are a fit to help you reach your fundraising goals. You’ll get 2-3 actionable ideas you can use immediately, whether or not we decide there is a next step together. Book time with me for a 30 minute strategy session!Make sure you follow both of these steps: 1. Book a call with me. 2. Fill out the quick survey to help me better understand where you are at with your fundraising. Remember: Fundraising is fulfilling the aspirations of your supporters. But you MUST give them the opportunity to support...

Focus on Women Donors (Please!)

This week we have a hot topic and guest post from Mike LoPresti of TouchPoints. Mike is our guest speaker for the March 17th Ignited Fundraising Community webinar,  Where he’ll talk about how to use your Data so it Truly IS Your Most Valuable Asset. Who makes the best donor – men or women? Women are more likely to give and to give more often than men in similar situations. Two fantastic stats from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy shed more light on women donors: 1. Baby-boomer and older women gave 89% more to charity than men their age 2. Women in the top 25% of permanent income gave 156% more than men in that same category And it’s not just older women or higher income women, virtually at all income levels women give more to charity. A recent Wall Street Journal article sought to explain why this might be. Their research found “women tend to be more altruistic and empathetic than men, partly because of the way men and women are socialized regarding caring, self-sacrifice and the well-being of others. Research also suggests men tend to make charitable gifts when an appeal frames the donation as being in the man’s self interest or as a way of maintaining the status quo, while women tend to give to promote social change or help others who are less fortunate.” So how do you appeal to women donors? One place to start is with messaging. A U.S. Trust survey says “women are nearly twice as likely as men to say that giving to charity is...

Massive Fundraising Results Requires Telling the Truth

Stop and think for just a quick second and type your answer into the comments box below. Do you know EXACTLY how much money you must raise from individual donors to have a successful fundraising year? If $500,000 is your goal for the year, as of this week you should have nearly $87,000 raised. . . in the door. . . gifts received. If $1 million is your goal for the year, as of this week you will want to have around $173,000. And if $100,000 is your goal for the year, you want to have $17,400 raised as of today. So, who have you told about those numbers? Anyone? Telling the truth to your board, donors and other supporters is what it takes to raise all you need – with ease. Yes. Ease. In my new free webinar training I talk a lot about communication. The hour-long training is generating amazing conversations and results. I know it’s easier to breeze past talking about exactly what you must raise this year. You don’t want to feel “asky” right? In the training I talk about knowing and sharing your “funding gap.” It’s a term I use to describe the difference between where you are today and where you must be to do all your important work. Christina asked this question after viewing the training webinar: What if you are extremely under-budget and over your fundraising goals? What if there is not a funding gap? Because this is a question I get asked often I thought I’d share my answer with you. Christina, Your question is a good one and what...

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